Gilda Radner, "Saturday Night Live" actress and comedienne, and "SNL" writer Alan Zweibel were best friends for nearly 15 years. Though never lovers, they shared an eccentric kinship until her death from cancer in May 1989. Zweibel wrote a book about their relationship which he turned into a stage play, Bunny Bunny currently at the Lucille Lortel Theatre Off Broadway.
Though well-received (especially for its inventive set design), the show has been having difficulty finding audiences in this busy season and will close May 25, after 12 previews and 73 regular performances. A spokesperson from the Merle Frimark office told Playbill On-Line a national tour is likely to begin in June, but details aren't set as to who will star or what the venues will be. Bunny Bunny began previews at the Lortel March 11, opened March 23, and was nominated for a best play Outer Critics Circle Award. The show world-premiered in late 1996 at Philadelphia Theatre Company's Plays & Players Theatre.
Though a comedy, Bunny Bunny follows the full arc of Zweibel and Radner's friendship, ending with the playwright's eulogy for the actress.
Christopher Ashley, best known for staging the Off-Broadway, L.A. and film versions of Paul Rudnick's Jeffrey, directs Bunny Bunny. "When long-time PCT director Christopher Ashley brought Bunny Bunny to our attention," said producing artistic director Sara Garonzik, "it seemed like a perfect pairing of two creative minds. We have been admirers of Alan Zweibel's work since 1985 when we produced his delightful one-act, Between Cars.."
After his "Saturday Night Live" years, Zweibel wrote for the television program "It's Garry Shandling's Show" and worked on the Rob Reiner film, "North" (based on Zweibel's own novel). Bunny Bunny was workshopped at Vassar's New York Stage & Film in 1995. Starring in Bunny Bunny are Cale as Gilda and Kirby as Alan, with recent Juilliard graduate Tudyk playing all other roles in the piece. Cale was seen in The Night Of The Iguana both on Broadway and at Chicago's Goodman Theatre. Kirby, best known as a film actor ("Good Morning Vietnam," "The Freshman") has appeared on stage in Lost In Yonkers and on Broadway in Geniuses.
The high profile design team for Bunny Bunny features David Gallo, whose clever sets tied with Stewart Laing's work on Titanic for this year's Outer Critics Circle Award. Also on the design team are Michael Lincoln (lighting) and David Woolard (costumes). Gallo is best known for his work on the Angels In America tour and Blue Man Group in Boston. Lincoln co-designed Broadway's current Skylight; Woolard has designed for Broadway's Tommy and Damn Yankees revival.
Bunny Bunny, presented by Bernie Brillstein, James D. Stern, Brad Grey and Harriet Newman, plays at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher St. Through May 25. For tickets ($35-$45) and information on Bunny Bunny, call (212) 239-6200.
-- By David Lefkowitz